Monday, August 26, 2019

Time To Die; Or Not?

If you watch the news then you know that five Federal prisoners here in the Terre Haute USP/SCU ("Death Row") have been selected to be killed by the government upon order of the U.S. attorney general. I am acquainted with four of the five, though call none my friend (I was on the same range of cells with them, so we were neighbors for years). It seems more will be selected soon, and like these first five (first in some 16 years, that is) they will be moved to the higher security cells on "A-range", which have sat empty 'til now. You could say A-range is the real "Death Row", since that is where they hold prisoners with an actual "execution" date, and it is a row of cells rather than a hall like this range I am on ("B-range", both "B" and "C" ranges are halls with cells on both sides facing each other, but A-range has all its cells on just one side).

When I first heard this news I felt relieved. I've been a little worried that the Federal government might actually stop killing its prisoners before they got around to killing me. I don't want to grow old and die of "natural causes" in here. I read a book once, "How We Die", by Sherwin B. Noland, see: 5NBooks) about how the body dies "naturally". Let's just say it is almost never "pretty", and certainly not pleasant. Being "put to sleep" is clearly a much better way to exit this "ride" we call life. So my hope has long been that the Federal government would adopt the single-drug protocol (which is the "cleanest" way to kill someone if you must do it in my opinion) and kill me before my health --- or worse, my mind! --- starts to fail and I begin the long, slow and painful process of dying "naturally", which is made many times worse by being in prison and having to rely on people who care little to nothing about me (and some who literally wish me ill!) to provide my needs, just to keep me "alive", forget about being kept "comfortable"! They don't do "comfortable" in prison health care.

But my hope may yet be dashed. My lawyers think this recent move by the U.S.A.G. is a political distraction, ordered by the president (Trump) to keep people's attention off him while he flounders in the news, again. There is also a rather well-known and strong "wind of (social) change" that this move by the A.G. goes against. It seems people in the U.S. are starting to wake up to the insanity (and injustice) of a government killing its prisoners (who present no real danger as they are rendered defenseless against the will of the state). That's actually the reason I've been a bit worried in the first place that they might never get around to killing me before this "wind" blows out the so-called "death penalty" flame once and for all.

So, I hope my lawyers are mistaken. Or, if they are right, then I hope the powers-that-be decide to "distract" everyone by actually killing us again! Like I said, I am acquainted with most of the five who have already been selected (and given "dates" for their "executions"), as well as with most of the rest of the other prisoners waiting here with me for their "dates", and there is not one prisoner here (that I am aware of) who I think would be better off without being "put to sleep". Obviously most of them feel differently, but then they don't seem to know what I know... in fact, most of them seem to desperately avoid such knowledge. And I believe that's the reason "death" scares them so much (judging by the way they talk about it and "fight" against it so much).

But, not me. I welcome a peaceful death, or even a violent one! It's only dying "naturally" in prison that concerns me a little. And I'm not suicidal either. I don't want to die at all. I just don't see any reason to fear it. So I don't mind knowing when and how I might die; in fact, I prefer knowing to not knowing! Why wouldn't I?

[J.D. August 5, 2019]

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Learning How To Shave @ 56

I shaved my face for the first time in prison. So I didn't have a father around or the Internet to help me figure out how. And not long after the first time I shaved my face I was shaving my legs, and yet still had to figure it all out by myself. And now that I'm 56, and in prison for the rest of my life, I'm still figuring out how to shave.

I thought I had it down pat. When I lived in Fargo, I figured out the best way to appear "clean-shaven" on a daily bases was to shave "down" (with the hair grain) each morning on weekdays (workdays), and then only shave "up" (against the grain) on Friday, so I'd be extra smooth for the weekend "fun". I did it like this because if I tried to shave against the grain every day I'd get irritated skin and razor burn. So I thought I had it all figured out.

Here on death row I don't need to appear clean-shaven at all, but I still don't like the itch and hassle of having a beard, so I've been shaving "against the grain" just once or twice a week, which I can do without the skin irritation, and which gives me the personally pleasing "extra smooth" mug once or twice a week for my own gratification (i.e. it "feels nice").

Then the other day while flipping channels I saw part of a popular sitcom where a man was in the bathroom explaining to his young son how to shave while he himself did so in the mirror. And to my amazement he told the boy to first shave with the grain (down) and THEN shave against the grain! I had never tried this, nor heard of it being done that way before. I always assumed you must shave one way or the other and never considered doing both in proper sequence.

So, I tried it, and it works1 I can now shave extra smooth every day if I like with no skin irritation! I'm 56 years old and have been shaving for at least 36 years, and I'm only now figuring this out? How strange the way we learn, and don't learn, at the whim of life.

[J.D. March 29, 2019]

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Religious "Management"

As anyone who reads this blog should know, I don't profess or subscribe to any organized religious belief system. I believe only in what has been given to me personally to believe, and I hold that belief above all others, not because I think it is the "true" or "right" belief, but because it is MINE, and mine for a reason.

That being said (and hopefully understood), I have engaged the "Religious Services"-program here (USP Terre Haute) in order to get permission to obtain certain so-called "religious items" that are consistent with my PERSONAL beliefs. As a consequence, it seems I have been formally registered by the BOP as "Pagan" and associated with "Wicca" (i.e. people who practice "magic" and call themselves "witches" and such), all because I ordered (through the "Religious Services"-program) a deck of Tarot-cards that are consistent with my "belief" in Jungian synchronicity (i.e. I believe there are no "coincidents" and that everything that happens, happens for a reason, and these "reasons" are connected and related to apparently "random" events, such as the order of cards in a shuffled deck). In fact, the Tarot-deck I ordered uses artwork that was directly inspired by Carl Jung's "archetype"-studies, which Jung himself relates back to synchronicity, which is the reason I ordered them.

Before I ordered the Tarot-cards, I had been "associated" with "Asatru", because of a "religious pendent" I ordered to honor my belief (and also as Jung believed based on his own studies and experience - which he considered "science", and not a belief system) that symbols can represent and influence the "synchronistic" coincidences that we experience. I chose a small pewter pentagram with a howling wolf. The pentagram is a historically very positive symbol that has long represented our "journey" through life (as a cycle that repeats from birth-to-rebirth), and the wolf represents Fenrisulven in the Norwegian tradition.

All this is very consistent with my beliefs, and though it corresponds (synchronistically!) with certain belief systems (such as Wicca, Asatru, not to mention Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism and too many others to say) it was the (Christian) "chaplain" in charge of the "religious services"-program here who "associated" me with various religious groups, not me. And in so doing, I was allowed to participate in the Asatru Ceremonial meal" last year (they brought an extra tray of food to my cell that other "non-Asatru"-prisoners did not get), which I genuinely appreciated in a "spiritual" sense because the meal represented a "synchronistic" event that corresponded meaningful with other events in my life at the time.

So, this year I decided that I'd like to participate in the Asatru "celebration" again, and sent an "electronic message" (intra-net e-mail) to the chaplain requesting to be allowed to participate. But, as the attached image (of my request and the chaplain's response), I was rejected essentially because of the Tarot-cards I bought.

I spoke to the chaplain himself when he made his rounds here on death row, and I asked him how he could justify telling me how I am allowed to practice what I believe. He replied by saying he was only doing his job "managing religious services" so they are not abused or otherwise taken advantage of. I started to tell him how hypocritical such "management" was, but realized quickly that I wasn't just challenging his ideology, but the very nature and premise of his chosen profession. So I interrupted myself and told him that I "accepted" his decision with reservations. And then a few days later I attempted to "spell out" my reservations for him in another "e-mail" to Religious Services (see attached image). It has now been several weeks, and the chaplain has yet to either respond to or even acknowledge my e-mail.



[J.D. January 6, 2019]

Monday, August 13, 2018

No Shit Sherlock

As I've said before, I can't really say too much about what really happens around here, out of respect for others' privacy, but mostly because a lot goes on that is "against the rules" and I don't want to stir up any shit.

But, I can tell you a little about the stupid shit that happens. A couple of months ago, two of the old men on the range, a black man and a white man, both obviously prejudice, who were celled next to each other (so only a cinder-block wall separated them) got into an argument over the "noise" the other was making (and thus being "disrespectful"). The argument became quite verbose and involved the usual impotent threats of death and violence.

I've noted that it is only the less intelligent sort who end up arguing like that. The rest just laugh at them (and also laugh rather than argue themselves as well). So it was all nothing as usual, until the white guy decided to report the black for threatening him and "keeping him awake at night" (this went on for several days, btw!). Then the black was moved, but before he moved, he decided to decorate his cell with his own feces.

Normally the black is a fastidiously clean person, but in his mind, smearing shit all over the cell walls and floor (and in the shower) was the only way he could "hurt" the white guy for being a "rat". He actually announced (several times) so everyone could hear that he expected the white guy he was mad at to have to clean up his shit the next time they moved cells.

But, that's not what happened, of course. Instead the guards ordered one of the "orderlies" (trustees) to clean the cell instead, which he did describing the mess in graphic detail as he did so we could all enjoy the madness together.

And that's just typical shit that happens in places like this, where a man's illusion of power and control is so hampered by reality that they will resort to extreme stretches of the imagination in order to maintain their illusion, as both of these men did (one by smearing shit all over, and the other by being a "rat"). I feel fortunate that my own illusions don't require so much external maintenance.

[J.D. August 2, 2018]

"Child Porn": Final Update

My name is Joseph E. Duncan III. I am on Federal "death row" at the Terre Haute, IN USP (prison) for kidnapping, raping, and murdering children. If you've read this blog, then you already know that a few years ago my fiancée sent me a picture of a famous French child model named Thylane Blondeau, who is known for her very provocative pictures in popular magazines, such as Vogue.

My fiancée had found the picture in fact on Vogue Magazine's website, and she printed some off to send me as part of a discussion we were having about the way children are sexualized in popular media.

I received the letter with these pictures through regular inmate mail. The envelope had been opened, and (presumably) the contents had been inspected and found acceptable. I had no reason to think the pictures were not allowed, nor that they should have been restricted. In one of the pictures, little miss Blondeau was indeed shirtless, and posing in a pair of pants in her signature provocative way. But, the girl was clearly prepubescent, and as flat-chested as any boy would be at the same age, so I figured, reasonably, that the prison policy against having pictures of women's breasts did not apply. I was wrong.

When a guard found this picture in my cell he wrote me up for having "child porn". The guard said in his "Incident Report" (disciplinary action) that I had violated rule #305 "Possession of anything not authorized and not issued through regular institutional channels".

Obviously, the picture had been issued to me, after being inspected by staff in the mail-room, and I still had the letter it came in to prove it (the letter itself clearly references and describes the pictures enclosed as they were being discussed). But, I was found "guilty" by the DHO (Disciplinary Hearing Officer) and harshly sanctioned (120 days loss of commissary, visiting, and phone privileges, plus a $75 fine - which happened to be all the money I had at that time!).

So I appealed over and over again. My main issue was that I was found "guilty" for something the policy itself says explicitly I was not guilty for. The picture was issued to me through regular prison mail, and I had no reason to think it was not "authorized" accordingly.

Nonetheless, I lost one appeal after another, for reasons that became even more ridiculous than the original incident report! The regional office claimed that the picture does show a "female breast" even if it is "undeveloped"... seriously? And even if it did show a real woman's breast (fully developed), the fact remains that it was handed to me by a prison guard passing out mail, and the envelope was opened and contents inspected... per policy, so I had no reason to think it was not authorized (there is no policy that "forbids" prisoners to have pictures of women's breasts, only a policy that requires the warden to restrict such pictures coming in through the mail. So if any policies were violated it was by the "warden", not me!)

All of my appeals fell on deaf ears, until the warden at some point decided that because it was my first "incident report" (ever) that it should have been handled at the "unit level" (UDC instead of DHO hearing). So they found me guilty again, at another hearing, ignoring again all the facts and evidence, not to mention rules, policies and Federal laws that I presented as "evidence" at my hearing that I had done nothing wrong.

After several years appealing (in order to "exhaust my institutional remedies"), I eventually tried to take it to a Federal judge by filing a Habeas Corpus in Federal court. But the judge quickly dismissed my complaint, stating that as long as the disciplinary action does not cause me to serve more time (which it can't because my sentence is "death"), then the prison can punish me however they like, and the court (judge) has no jurisdiction.

Of course that's not true either. But, I don't have the legal prowess nor financial resources (it would cost about $400 to appeal the judge's dismissal, and/or proceed under a different legal avenue... and new "prison litigation" reform laws require prisoners to pay the full amount of such fees, regardless of any "forma pauperis" status).

So, once more the System has proven to me that I have no "rights", and that "they" can punish me however and whenever they like, regardless of any rules or laws that pretend to prevent them from doing so. And once more I ponder how they could ever expect me to "respect" them or their "System" of so-called "law and order", which has only proven itself to be anything but what it pretends.

The System does what it wants, and then uses the premise of "justice" as an excuse. The "good guys" are the real "bad guys", and us "bad guys" are just a bunch of beaten down dogs with little choice but to bite back whenever we can in order to defend ourselves. Thus the System propagates...

[J.D. August 1, 2018]


P.S. If you think I deserve to be punished "unfairly" because of what I did to children then you are using the exact same excuse that all "do-gooders" use when they do "evil"... judgment and condemnation. There's nothing "wrong" with having an opinion. But when you impose your opinion upon others, it becomes a judgment that can never be "right". I would know.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Prison movies for December 2017

"The Dark Tower" (2017) - Dec 30
"The Emoji Movie" (2017) - Dec 29
"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales" (2017) - Dec 25
"Spiderman: Homecoming" (2017) - Dec 23
"Churchill" (2017) - Dec 22
"Wish Upon" (2017) - Dec 16
"The Mummy" (2017) - Dec 15
"Denial" (2017) - Dec 9
"Pelé" (2017) - Dec 8
"Little Men" (2016) - Dec 2
"Batman and Harley Quinn" (2017) - Dec 1

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Stench of Our Understanding

We have not posted anything for a while because we have been contemplating the direction and purpose of our blog. We have always wanted this to be no more than an honest and open exposition of Joseph Duncan's thoughts and experiences, as a kind of glimpse into the mind of a human being that many call "monster". The idea - the hope - has always been that by doing this, then perhaps those who are ready will find for themselves that we are them, and that the only monsters in this world are the ones we imagine, and create for ourselves.

But it has come to our attention that by iterating with singular first person pronouns, we are inevitably giving the impression that this blog is about Joseph Duncan, when it has never been about him at all. His mind is no more than a psychological sponge that has soaked up the dross and drit exuded by all of us. The Fifth Nail has only ever endeavored to squeeze the contents of this metaphorical sponge onto the page, and let the pattern that emerges be read like an inkblot which says more about the person seeing it than it does about the one who has made the stain.

So from now on we will speak only using plural pronouns as often as we can in order to emphasize that this blog is not about one person. We will also attempt to shift our focus more on expressing our thoughts in a more general form, so they can be seen as thoughts coming from a sponge that has been used to wipe society's ass, and not from the mind of some "evil monster" that we imagine in order to convince ourselves that we're not the one's to blame for the mess. But prisons are the outhouses of the culture we live in, so we have no one but ourselves to blame for the offensive "smell" that wafts from within. Everyone has to shit, so no one is "innocent". So take a good whiff, my friend, because it is both you and I that are making this stench, not just "me".

In Haiti, workers empty communal outhouses at night and in the dark to avoid public scrutiny and humiliation.